This season the WaterFront Center partnered with SailAhead, whose mission is to heal wounded veterans through sailing, to create a new program called Veterans on Water, or “VOW.” The program was structured for the participants to obtain their US Sailing Basic Keelboat Certification. The WFC offered three-hour classes every Friday and Sunday evening for twelve weeks, free of charge.
Having served in various wars over several decades, these veterans started the course with diverse sailing and life experiences. Sailing in Sonars channeled them to focus on a common goal, and they worked towards it with excitement and eagerness. One of the participants, Clarence, noted that this program was able to help him through a really gray spot. While out on the water sailing, he felt present and in the moment, and his other worries seemed to fall to the back burner. He said that this sailing program helped bring the group back to their core selves—the people they were before they served our country overseas.
The first sailor to earn his US Sailing Certification through our VOW program was Matt. He was expecting his third child at the end of the summer, and was determined to master the required skills before then. Matt met his goal in mid-August just two weeks before his new addition to the family. When asked about the program, Matt noted, “I’m very grateful for the WaterFront Center and the SailAhead program to devote time to training myself and fellow veterans to sail on a keelboat. This is a new skill I know I’ll always cherish, especially by being able to take my family on the water. The WaterFront Center is an amazing resource on Long Island, and I have the highest respect for their instructors, like Avi and Heather who stuck with our group throughout the summer. I’m very grateful and excited to use this new skill regularly!”
The 2016 VOW program was definitely a success. When reflecting on the program, Brian wrote, “This is a truly amazing and exciting journey, and it’s only the beginning for me as I expect to be a part of the WFC for years to come. I recommend this program to all veterans as a healing tool while enjoying a terrific learning experience provided by the entire dedicated staff. I know that my fellow veterans sharing this program with me share my sentiments.”
Indeed, the vets from the 2016 VOW program have already given back so much to the WFC. Several VOWs volunteered at JSA Opti Champs and NYS Opti Champs this summer comprising our safety team. Others helped during volunteer days stenciling life jackets and performing several maintenance jobs. The staff at the WFC thoroughly enjoyed working with this group and is eager to watch the VOW program grow and expand.